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Singapore Budget 2018: Built-environment sector to get leg-up from research funds and Build.SG office

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PLANS are afoot to raise the capabilities of local construction players by roping in industry and the research community to help transform the built-environment (BE) sector through research funds and helping local firms to internationalise.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) and its partner agencies will launch a series of calls for research ideas under the "Cities of Tomorrow R&D" programme over the next few months, committing up to S$40 million in research funds.

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee told Parliament on Tuesday that the government will also help local firms to take wing overseas by finding opportunities for them to team up for large overseas ventures. "If our firms can offer a unique 'Singaporean' way of undertaking the entire development cycle, such as through BIM (building information modelling) and IDD (integrated digital delivery), this will increase their competitive edge."

He cited the example of Amaravati, the new capital city of Andhra Pradesh in India, where a Singapore consortium made up of Ascendas-Singbridge and Sembcorp Industries has snagged the master development rights for a start-up area to kick-start the new city's development.

"Singapore companies with the relevant expertise should consider whether they can export their services there as part of the consortium," Mr Lee said.

As was announced earlier, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is setting up a transformation office to implement the construction industry transformation map (ITM), and seek out synergies from the ITMs in the BE cluster in the long run.

This office, to be called Build.SG, will focus on helping firms build capabilities and deploy key technologies; it will also lend support to firms exploring overseas opportunities, and act as a one-stop career office to attract and retain workers in the BE domain, and to raise their skills level.

Build.SG will work with the trade associations and chambers, institutes of higher learnings and unions.

Mr Lee noted that as the city ages, it needs to find ways to future-proof its infrastructure to ensure they remain safe and functional. Apart from existing measures to ensure building safety, the government will introduce façade inspection requirements.

The regime will focus on buildings more than 13 m tall and over 20 years old, as these pose higher risks. Inspections will be carried out by trained personnel every seven years. This will ensure that repairs are timely, which will obviate the need for costlier repairs down the road.

Mr Lee said: "We aim to finalise the relevant legislation by end of this year. Building owners will be given about a year's lead time to prepare, before the requirement comes into effect.

"BCA will continue to engage stakeholders on implementation details, to minimise the burden of cost."

Earlier, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong announced that for the government's construction-related tenders, the BCA has enhanced the frameworks since January to place greater emphasis on quality.

For instance, consultancy tenderers now have to give a breakdown of the manpower deployment and rates, so the agencies can make a better assessment of whether the proposed resources are in line with the quoted fees.

Measures have also been introduced to avoid a situation where a company tries too hard to secure a contract, "dives the prices", but ends up being unable to deliver or compromises on quality. For construction tenders, various agencies have ways to identify abnormally low bids and scrutinise contractors' ability to deliver the project at such prices.

Mr Wong said the government will continue to ensure its construction contracts remain accessible to smaller local companies. About four-fifths of all the government's construction contracts are below S$650,000 in value, and in which smaller local firms without a track record can participate. "Where suitable, we have broken up some of our bigger projects into smaller contracts, to give local companies a better opportunity to participate," Mr Wong said.



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